Pros: Convenient hatchback body style; Toyota's reputation for reliability; plenty of customization options; versatile sliding/reclining rear seats

Cons: Outdated transmissions; poor highway fuel economy for this class; steering wheel doesn't telescope

What's New: The 2013 xD features improved front seat belts, a new seat cushion airbag for each front passenger and the optional BeSpoke audio system with mobile app integration.

Introduction

You know how some cars embody everything the brand stands for? Well, the 2013 Scion xD isn't one of them. But we're not complaining, because unlike some of its youth-oriented Scion siblings, the xD actually errs on the side of sensibility.

If you think of the xD as a moderately funky Toyota Corolla hatchback, you'll have a better idea of what it's all about.

Indeed, the xD is powered by the same battle-tested 1.8-liter engine as the Corolla, earning this Scion major peace-of-mind points with many shoppers. Unfortunately, the xD is also saddled with the Corolla's outdated 4-speed automatic transmission, which hurts both fuel economy and acceleration. But that hasn't stopped Toyota's iconic small sedan from being a perennial sales leader, so the Corolla connection is clearly a selling point for the xD.

At the same time, the xD is every bit a Scion in the following sense: You can customize it until the cows come home. Scion dealers are fully stocked with every imaginable accessory, so if you want colorful interior lighting, a body kit, a sporty exhaust ... yeah, they've got that. And the best part is, none of these extras will affect your factory warranty.

What we have here, then, is a handy hatchback with the heart of a Corolla and just enough of that playful Scion personality to set it apart. There are better economy cars on the market, to be sure, but we're not immune to the 2013 xD model's sensible charms.

Comfort & Utility

The 2013 Scion xD is offered in one trim level with a variety of available upgrades. Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, power accessories, cruise control, a first aid kit, a tilt-only steering wheel and a 6-speaker Pioneer audio system with HD radio and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Extras include 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a premium Pioneer audio system with a 5.8-in touchscreen and BeSpoke mobile app integration (see the Technology section below) and a variety of mild performance aids like lowering springs, stiffer shocks and a sport exhaust.

In our interior evaluation, we agreed that the xD model's front seats are pleasantly firm, but found that they don't hug you much through the corners. Given all the xD model's sport-oriented accessories, we're surprised that sport seats aren't on the list. The tilt-only steering wheel will frustrate long-legged drivers, as there's just no way to get your arms comfortably close to the wheel without ramming your knees into the dash. But everyone will appreciate the exceptionally user-friendly climate controls.

The xD is awarded style points for its unusual gauges, including a cockeyed speedometer with a nearly vertical tachometer tucked alongside. Interior materials are nothing to write home about in terms of quality, but the plastics have interesting textures and we like the look of the radio faceplates -- they add a custom flavor to the otherwise straightforward center stack.

The xD model's backseat is perhaps its most distinctive aspect. The seat has six inches of fore/aft travel, so you can prioritize passenger space or cargo space as needs dictate. The seat backs also recline, a feature typically seen in SUVs. With the seat slid all the way back, there's adequate room for a couple of adults, which is no mean feat considering the xD model's compact dimensions.

Less impressive is the xD model's cargo capacity, which tops out at 35.7 cu ft with the rear seat backs folded down. That's near the low end of the spectrum for 4-door hatchbacks, but what are you going to do -- the xD is a pretty tiny car.

Technology

The xD model's standard Pioneer stereo is much nicer-looking than the typical base stereo in this class. We especially like the iPod-inspired mode selection dial. You won't feel like you cheaped out if you stick with this setup.

The optional touchscreen stereo is very tempting, however, as it brings the added functionality and wow-factor of that 5.8-in touchscreen, plus slightly more powerful sound and a cool typeface, for a reasonable premium. Moreover, Scion sweetens the deal for 2013 with BeSpoke mobile app integration, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and more. Note, however, that BeSpoke was not compatible with the iPhone 5 at the time this article was written, although a fix was under investigation.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive xD comes with a 1.8-liter inline-4 rated at 128 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual is standard; the optional automatic is a 4-speed. Acceleration is pretty sprightly with either transmission -- credit the xD model's modest 2,600-lb-plus curb weight for that. But most rivals offer more speeds in their gearboxes these days and the xD pays the price on the fuel economy front, checking in at 27 miles per gallon city and a low 33 mpg highway.

Safety

The xD comes with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes (front disc, rear drums) and eight airbags.

The government hasn't crash tested the xD, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the xD its top rating of Good in all categories.

Driving Impressions

The xD model's last-generation Yaris underpinnings reveal themselves in the firm, sometimes unyielding ride (we'd definitely stay away from the optional 18-in wheels). Road noise is prominent at highway speeds. Steering response is quite sharp, but not in a way that makes us want to head for the hills. While the xD is perfectly adequate as a short distance runabout, we wouldn't call it especially refined.

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Sonic: The turbocharged Sonic LTZ is pricier than the xD, but the regular Sonic hatchback with the 1.8-liter engine is a strong Scion competitor.

Kia Rio: One of our favorite subcompacts, the Rio blends style and practicality like few others in this class.

Toyota Yaris: If you're looking for a Toyota product, know that the Yaris was just redesigned, so it has some updates that the xD lacks.

AutoTrader Recommends

We'd definitely want that 5.8-in touchscreen with BeSpoke, but otherwise we'd stick with the standard xD to keep the cost down. Scion's accessories can quickly bump the xD model's price up into Ford Focus hatchback territory, and that's just not a fair fight.

author photo

Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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